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To buy or not to buy? : The answer could be in the paperwork

HPI’s Guide to Helping Used Car Buyers Avoid the Paperwork Pitfall


After searching for that dream car, many buyers are all too eager to seal the deal and hand over their hard earned money. But, says vehicle history check expert HPI, it’s vital to look beyond the shiny paintwork and high spec interior to avoid being caught out. Having the correct paperwork present when looking at the car will provide buyers with peace of mind, but it’s crucial to know exactly what to look for.  HPI, provider of the HPI Check®, is helping buyers spot any early warning signs that the car may be a lemon in disguise, with its Paperwork Checklist.

V5C (Logbook)

HPI warns consumers not to buy a car without a V5C – otherwise known as a logbook – and make sure it’s genuine by looking for the DVLA watermark which can be seen when holding it up to the light.  If there’s no V5C to hand, a new one can be applied for, but buyers should ask themselves and the seller why it isn’t available. If it’s been mislaid, ideally the vendor should have applied for a replacement before selling.

Whilst the V5C tells buyers how many owners the car has had and who it’s registered to, it’s important to note that the person listed isn’t necessarily the legal owner of the car, simply the person to whom any fines will be sent.  Buyers and sellers alike are also warned that not telling the DVLA of a change in vehicle ownership is an offence.


From three years after the date of first registration, all cars need an MoT roadworthiness check.  It’s important to check the historical mileage reading for each year of its MOT test, not just the current reading, as this should paint a consistent picture of the vehicle’s increasing mileage over the car’s life.  In addition, an MOT certificate will only tell buyers that the car met the test requirements on the particular day when the test was done, so it’s important buyers don’t rely on the MOT as an indicator of the vehicle’s current general mechanical condition.

With all information now logged centrally, buyers can easily check if a vehicle’s MoT is valid by entering the vehicle registration and make online at  Without a valid MoT, a car can’t be taxed – and therefore can’t be insured.


Before October 2014, all drivers were obliged to display a disc in the front window of their vehicle to show that they had paid road tax however, today, vehicle tax data is now stored online so it is no longer necessary to display a tax disc.   But, advises HPI, when a car is sold, the vendor must cash in their existing road tax and the buyer must buy their own. It is illegal to drive an untaxed car on the UK’s roads and the police can establish immediately whether a car has been taxed or not by accessing the DVLA database; buyers should always make sure they have tax in place before driving off in their dream car.

Service History

Ideally a car will have been professionally maintained from new by the supplying dealer, but proof of regular servicing is a valuable asset when buying a used car. Not only will it enable buyers to check the mileage has gone up in the right stages, it is also evidence that the car has been adequately maintained and is unlikely to experience any expensive wear and tear issues in the near future.

“Buyers should be vigilant when checking a car’s paperwork before completing the sale. By knowing what to look out for, drivers can protect themselves from purchasing a car that’s been stolen, written off, clocked or simply unloved, all of which will be more than they bargained for,” says Neil Hodson, deputy managing director of cap hpi.  “However, even if everything has checked out on the car and it appears a good deal, it’s still important to check the car’s history.  By conducting an HPI Check, drivers will be get the fullest possible history of the car, including whether or not the car has outstanding finance against it.  So confident are we in the strength of the information we hold, we back the HPI Check with a £30,000 *Guarantee to give buyers the confidence and peace of mind they need to go ahead and buy their dream car.”

Drivers looking to buy a used car should check out the HPI Used Car Buyer’s Guide at for invaluable do’s and don’ts on how to buy a used car. The Guide will walk buyers through each step of the process, from how to spot common scams employed by today’s unscrupulous sellers, key bodywork and under the bonnet checks that any driver can carry out, how to conduct a test drive, insurance advice and even what to do in the event of the purchase going wrong.

February 2016


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*HPI Check Guarantee subject to Ts&Cs